Così fan tutte, Théâtre des Champs Élysées, May 22 2012
Jérémie Rhorer..... Director
Eric Génovèse [Valérie Nègre] ..... Director
Camilla Tilling ..... Fiordiligi
Michèle Losier ..... Dorabella
Claire Debono ..... Despina
Bernard Richter ..... Ferrando
Markus Werba ..... Guglielmo
Pietro Spagnoli ..... Don Alfonso
Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Choeur du Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
I guess I am easy to please: Wagner, Mozart, Les Troyens, a bit of baroque and lots of 20th century stuff -- and I'm good! ;)
This production had pretty much everything that would generate a scheme of negative a priori's in my mind, but in the end thanks to some splendid singing, a cool orchestra and an exemplary complicity among actors this show ends up by being one more excellent Mozart evening this season in Paris. La Clemenza di Tito, Don Giovanni, and this Cosi -- three well done revivals that counterbalance the agony of the creative work in the Paris operatic configuration (the exception being La Muette de Portici).
Let's start with the director: Éric Génovèse is the same man who directed Anna Bolena last year in Vienna. Although not worse than the one presented at The Met, and despite our beloved Trebs singing the title role, that was one of the longest opera shows I've experienced in my long life. So, I obviously expected this Così to be pretentious, plagued by trivial symbols that eventually obstruct the interaction among protagonists -- so essential for this opera... but in the end I was delighted to be proven wrong: this Così is theatrically very well structured -- the actors are never left on stage to act on their own; everyone seemed to be involved and in service of this great opera. Yes, it is a totally narrative & classical staging (which I a priori dislike), the costumes suggest the action taking place at the beginning of the 19th century --thus making it more distant from our time and us-- and there is no any discernible ground director's idea in this show. And yet it works! For this kind of show to really work one needs a significant amount of rehearsal time which was evidently the case in preparing this revival. In the end, a round of fully deserved applause to Génovèse and his production team.
|Eric Génovèse and his assist. Valérie Nègre|
Jérémie Rhorer and his orchestra (Le Cercle de l'Harmonie) are always excellent in Mozart and they confirmed their reputation here, even if the performance on the ancient instruments is not exactly what I like the most. There is nothing peculiar about their performance but it was lively, accurate and perfectly well toned to fit the size of the auditorium of Théâtre des Champs Élysées -- otherwise impeccable for the Mozart's operas.
I left the best for the last: the singers. You all know that Bernard Richter is the best lyric tenor in the world right now. Of course you do, and of course he is! ;) I hope he stays away from Verdi, Puccini... and from shouting in general, to save his huge and beautiful voice for the delicate roles that no one else can/could sing like this. So, yes he was won-der-ful but I feel I would be unfair if I said he was the best out there, mostly because his voice is too big for TCE [this must be the first time for me to say on this blog]. After this Ferrando, and previously Atys, Don Ottavio, Chevalier de la Force... you can count me as a Bernard Richter fan!
|Bernrd Richter, Michèle Losier and Pietro Spagnoli|
Since the tragic date in 2009 --when Gerard Mortier left the Paris Opera-- we are getting much less chance to listen to a stunningly beautiful voice by Camilla Tilling. Having her back in an opera production was a treat per se. She cleverly sang through da capo without wasting too much of her voice, and then displayed its perly beauty in all the Fiordiligi arias that matched in beauty the famous renditions by Margaret Price. Her scenic presence is equally fantastic.
When you add to that always splendid Markus Werba whose delicate interpreting of the Mozartian characters makes his richly toned baritone a large bonus in any production of an opera by Mozart, you understand that this premiere was really a beautiful Mozart night. Michèle Losier was terrific too. She's clearly becoming one of the crowd's favorite in Paris. Pietro Spagnoli has that quality that is hard to define and is referred to "italienità", often mistakenly identified by the buffoonery in Il barbiere in Siviglia. I believe he's a perfect model of how the role of Don Alfonso should be sung; there you get a full size of italienità -- in his classy singing and his scenic spontaneity. As far as I can remember this was a first big role for Claire Debono. She is always your perfectly reliable second role. Here she went that extra mile and was a brilliant Despina. Félicitations Claire!
|Claire Debono and Markus Werba|
So, musically it is as good as you can possibly wish to get in an opera by Mozart. Scenically, it is a production that works if and only if the cast consists of singers with pronounced acting talents and very well rehearsed. This happened to be the case here: a delicate Mozart night. If you can possibly catch this show please do!
A few production photos:
Trailer from the previous run (in 2008, when it was created) which unfortunately does not do justice to this production: